I am back from New York, jet-lagged, tired, but full on inspiration and ideas. The city was full of Christmas decorations, so I decided to share two Christmas recipes which also make great homemade gifts. I will soon be going to Jarno and Kari’s annual glögi night, which involves fun, laughter, copious amounts of undiluted glögi and the swapping of gifts. My salted pecan toffee always goes down well, with requests for more each year. I was a little undecided whether to include this recipe, as now my friends will realise just how easy it is to make, but it is just so good I think everyone should try it. Many people are scared of sugar work as it can often involve sugar thermometers and precision timings, but this recipe is incredibly easy and has yet to fail.
I am also a big fan of chai spice, so the second recipe is for a chai concentrate. It is spicy, flavoursome and perfect for this time of year with a piece of gingerbread, or toffee! I like my chai quite sweet, but feel free to reduce the amount of sugar. The liquid is more a concentrate than a syrup and I usually use it one part chai to two parts warm almond milk. So why not try giving your friends a homemade gift this year, not only is it frugal but the extra effort is always appreciated.
Salted Pecan Toffee (vegetarian)
90 g Pecan nuts
3 tbsp water
flaked sea salt
Place your pecans on a piece of baking paper and set aside. In a heavy saucepan add the water, sugar and butter and bring to a simmer on a medium heat. You need to watch your sugar mixture carefully and stir it regularly to prevent it burning or catching on the bottom of the pan. Keep the simmer going and eventually you will see the sugar begin to change colour. Once the mix begins to darken it will very quickly go from light to dark, so keep your eye on it. As soon as it turns a rich dark bronze colour take it of the heat and pour over your pecans. Sprinkle your toffee with the sea salt and allow to cool. Once cool simply break into pieces and place into your desired receptacle, where it will last for a week or two.
Chai Concentrate 500ml (Vegan)
600 ml water
10 Assam tea bags (or any other plain black tea)
6 cm piece of ginger thinly sliced
6 star anise
6 cardamom pods crushed
4 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
a vanilla pod, split
10 all spice berries
10 whole coriander
A generous grating of fresh nutmeg
200g muscovado sugar
Simply place all the ingredients, except the sugar, and bring to a slow boil. Allow to simmer for 30 mins to really allow the flavours to develop. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the sugar until it has completely dissolved. Pour through a fine sieve into a sterilised bottle and it will last for 3 – 4 weeks. Once opened store in the fridge.